BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Members of a Brunswick County-based utility are seeing bills skyrocket in the cold weather and demanding answers from their providers.
Since temperatures dropped in the new year, people served by Brunswick Electric Membership Corporation have asked us to find out why their electric bills have doubled and tripled when they say they are being more energy efficient.
"Normally we could heat the would house off what we've been using," Kim Smith, a member of BEMC, said. "We are only heating one bedroom now."
Smith and her family of five all sleep in one bedroom and cut off their central unit, opting for a space heater to provide warmth, but the pricey bills keep coming.
"I was down to my last $40 yesterday and I had to put $20 on power," Smith said. "It takes $30 to fill up and that's just to drive back and forth to work for two days."
Smith is a "pay as you go" member with BEMC.
"Once that money is out (in your account), your power is out," Smith said.
The Whiteville native found recently she's had to add money at a faster rate and borrow from her family and friends to make ends meet.
"I shouldn't have to borrow money because I have a $300 light bill just because it's cold," Smith said.
A representative with the utility says the "pay as you go" members are the users primarily sending in complaints.
"(Power stat users) can monitor in near-real time their energy usage and these temps are causing them to panic and blame their electricity provider, BEMC," Heather Holbrook, Supervisor of Marketing Communications said. "Constant use of their heating systems is one part. Utilizing too few energy efficiency practices may be another."
Smith feels like she's done everything to use the most energy-efficient practices, but it's still not enough to keep her costs down.
"It would make sense to reduce to one room and all stay in it together but your heating system in general would still be overwhelmed," Holbrook said. "You are using a non-energy-efficient means to heat that room."
When WECT asked Holbrook what members like Smith should do if they've already made these changes, Holbrook said she couldn't give individual recommendations.
"Let us know their situation and their account number," Holbrook said. "We can monitor their usage and find where their trouble may be."